There is such a quantity of important news today that I barely know where to start. There are reports about two trials being held in the Vatican as well as words spoken by Pope Francis at today’s general audience about a report from France on decades of sex abuse by clergy.
The general audience catechesis on St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians continued with a remarkable text on freedom, based on Paul’s writings, from the Holy Father. I’ll start with the general audience and work my way through the Vatican trials.
POPE FRANCIS ON FRENCH ABUSE REPORT: “TO YOU, LORD THE GLORY, TO US THE SHAME”
Following his weekly general audience catechesis on St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians and summaries in diverse languages given by monsignori who work in the Secretariat of State, Pope Francis, obviously feeling pain and sadness, spoke of the just-released report on sex abuse cases in the Church in France:
“Yesterday, the French Bishops’ Conference and the Conference of French men and women religious received received the report from the independent commission on sexual abuse in the Church, charged with assessing the extent of the phenomenon of sexual assaults and violence against minors from 1950 onwards. “Unfortunately,” lamented the Holy Father, “this resulted in considerable numbers. I wish to express to the victims my sadness and my pain for the traumas they have suffered and my shame, our shame, my shame, for the inability of the Church for so long to put them at the center of her concerns, assuring them of my prayers.
“And I pray – and we all pray together: ‘To you Lord the glory, to us the shame’: this is the moment of shame. I encourage the bishops and you, dear brothers who have come here to share this moment, I encourage the bishops and religious superiors to continue to make all efforts so that similar tragedies do not happen again. I express closeness and paternal support to the priests of France in the face of this trial, which is difficult but healthy, and I invite French Catholics to assume their responsibilities to ensure that the Church is a safe home for all. Thank you.”
TRUE FREEDOM FLOWS FROM THE CROSS OF CHRIST
Today’s general audience took place in a jam-packed Paul VI Hall, to the obvious delight of the many pilgrims and visitors present for the weekly gathering with the Holy Father. It was pouring rain outside but the hall was warm and sunny with miles and applause as Pope Francis continued his catechesis on St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians. (Vatican photo)
“We now consider the Apostle’s teaching on Christian freedom,” Francis began. “Freedom is a treasure that is truly appreciated only when it is lost. For many of us who are used to being free, it often appears to be an acquired right rather than a gift and a legacy to be preserved. How many misunderstandings there are around the topic of freedom, and how many different views have clashed over the centuries!”
“For Paul, that freedom is a gift, the fruit of our new life in Christ. Through baptism, we have been freed from our bondage to sin and freed for a life of generous love in obedience to the Gospel.”
“Above all,” the Holy Father emphasized, “St. Paul’s teaching about freedom is positive. The Apostle proposes the teaching of Jesus that we find in the Gospel of John as well: ‘If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free’. Therefore, the call is above all to remain in Jesus, the source of truth who makes us free. Christian freedom, therefore, is founded on two fundamental pillars: first, the grace of the Lord Jesus; second, the truth that Christ reveals to us and which is He himself.”
Francis explained that, “The second pillar of freedom is the truth. In this case as well, it is necessary to remember that the truth of faith is not an abstract theory, but the reality of the living Christ, who touches the daily and overall meaning of personal life. How many people there are who have never studied, who do not even know how to read and write, but who have understood Christ’s message well, who have this freedom that makes them free.”
“The truth that Christ brings is in fact truthfulness about ourselves. Our journey along the path of Christian freedom is not easy, but guided and sustained by the love of the Crucified Lord, and by his liberating truth, we will find our ultimate fulfilment in accordance with God’s saving plan.”
VATICAN TRIBUNAL ORDERS FURTHER INVESTIGATION IN FRAUD TRIAL
A Vatican tribunal, which in July this year indicted 10 people, including Sardinian Cardinal Giovanni Becciu, of embezzlement, corruption, extortion, money laundering, fraud, and abuse of office, among the charges, today agreed with defense lawyers who, at a hearing on October 5 said the defendants had been deprived of their full rights and the trial should either end or re-start the investigations.
The tribunal today ordered prosecutors to turn over evidence that had not been heretofore seen by the accused, including a videotaped recording of a key witness, a monsignor who worked for the Secretariat of State whose statements led to a number of the indictments.
Only Cardinal Becciu of those indicted was present today among the magistrates and journalists in the courtroom.
At the October 5 hearing, the prosecutor basically admitted to procedural errors and, in a surprise move, instead of asking that the trial be declared null and void, admitted willingness to essentially start over by turning over the requested documents and video recordings.
The trial began on July 27..
At that first hearing, tribunal president Giuseppe Pignatone had ordered the consignment of all of Msgr. Alberto Perlasca’s recordings by August 10. However, the magistrates said that they would not comply with that order saying there was a risk that undue disclosure of the files audio and video that would have “irreparably compromised the right to privacy of people involved.”
Those recordings will now be turned over to the defense team. All remaining materials must be turned over by November 3 and the trial will resume on November 17.
A July 3, 2021 Vatican statement explained that, “The investigations, launched in July 2019 following a complaint by the Institute for the Works of Religion and the Office of the Auditor General, involved full collaboration between the Office of the Promoter and the Judicial Police Section of the Gendarmerie Corps. The investigations were also carried out in close and fruitful cooperation with the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Rome and the Economic and Financial Police Unit – G.I.C.E.F. of the Guardia di Finanza of Rome. The cooperation of the Public Prosecutor’s Offices of Milan, Bari, Trento, Cagliari and Sassari and their respective judicial police sections was also appreciated.
“Elements also emerged against Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu, who is being prosecuted, pursuant to the law, for the crimes of embezzlement and abuse of office, also in collaboration, as well as subornation.”
Subornation is inducing someone to commit an unlawful act or to commit perjury.
In its summary of the tribunal statement today, L’Osservatore Romano wrote: “(tribunal president) Pignatone ordered the partial restitution of documents to the promoter of Justice for the defendants: Monsignor Mauro Carlino, for all the crimes ascribed; Enrico Crasso, for some crimes; Tommaso Di Ruzza, former rector of the Financial Information Authority (Aif), for some offenses; Raffaele Mincione, Nicola Squillace and Fabrizio Tirabassi for all crimes ascribed. For Cardinal Becciu, on the other hand, a new interrogation will be carried out limited to the offenses of subornation (an attempt to get retractions from Perlasca) and peculato (payments of amounts drawn from the funds of the Secretariat of State to the Spes Coop Social cooperative, represented legally by his brother Antonino).
This trial is the result of the investigations begun in 2019 concerning financial malfeasance linked to the purchase of a London property by the Vatican’s Secretariat of State. The purchase is reputed to have involved use of monies such as Peter’s Pence – intended only for papal charities – and that eventually led to enormous losses for the Vatican, including questionable fees paid to brokers for the various transactions.
VATICAN ABUSE TRIAL: COURT CLEARS FORMER ALTAR BOY AND EX-YOUTH SEMINARY RECTOR OF CRIMES
(CNA) – The Vatican tribunal cleared a priest who formerly served as a papal altar boy and the ex-rector of a Vatican-based youth seminary of crimes on Wednesday.
Defendant Fr. Gabriele Martinelli, 29, was acquitted of charges of violent sexual assault alleged to have taken place at the Pius X pre-seminary. The school’s former rector, 72-year-old Fr. Enrico Radice, was cleared of charges of cover-up.
The ruling came at the end of a year-long trial for alleged abuse at the Pius X pre-seminary, a residence in Vatican City for about a dozen boys aged 12 to 18 who serve at papal Masses and other liturgies in St. Peter’s Basilica and are considering the priesthood.
The Vatican announced in May that Pope Francis had decided to move the pre-seminary outside of Vatican City State beginning in September
At the last hearings on July 15-16, the Vatican’s prosecutor had asked judges to sentence Martinelli to eight years in prison, with a reduction to four years, and to sentence Radice to four years in jail.
Tribunal president Giuseppe Pignatone handed down the decision on Oct. 6. The court said that Martinelli could not be punished for crimes while he was a minor (in Vatican law, before his 16th birthday), clearing him of charges of abuse before Aug. 9, 2008.
For accusations of sexual violence from Aug. 9, 2008, to March 19, 2009 (the period before the alleged victim turned 16 years old and was no longer a legal minor), the court said the sexual acts “were proven in their materiality,” but lacked certainty that they were coerced.
In this case, the tribunal continued, the acts would constitute a different crime, “the corruption of minors,” but the statute of limitations had lapsed by four years when the lawsuit was filed in 2018.
The religious group Opera don Folci, which runs the pre-seminary and is overseen by the Diocese of Como, was a defendant in a civil suit regarding the abuse charges.
No decision in the civil suit was announced on Oct. 6.
Attorneys for the defendants, agreeing with the ruling on Oct. 6, said that “there were very many doubts” about whether the alleged crimes took place.